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Victoria school trustees vote to review police school liaison program
Gregory Garost was a Grade 8 teacher at Gordon Head Middle School in 2016 when he made inappropriate comments to female students and engaged in inappropriate physical contact with students. (CTV Vancouver Island)
VANCOUVER -- School boards in Vancouver and Victoria are reviewing the use of police liaison officers but have rejected motions to suspend the programs while the reviews are underway.
Trustees in both cities voted unanimously Monday to review their school liaison officer programs.
Elementary school teachers in Vancouver had called for suspension of the program amid anti-racism protests following the police-involved death of George Floyd in the United States.
The program provides special training to police officers who volunteer for assignment in specific elementary or secondary schools, doing everything from coaching hockey teams to working with at-risk youth.
Victoria trustees heard from two counsellors prior to their decision and each spoke of the importance of relationship building between police and youth.
Both boards approved motions calling for the upcoming reviews to include participation from parents, staff and racialized, Indigenous and LGBTQ students.
Mia Golden, a member of a specialized team working with Victoria teens at risk of sexual exploitation, said the trustees may not have enough information to respond to calls to defund police.
“I can say that as a Black person myself, as a person in the mental health field, and as a person within a team that has the benefit of policing attached to it, all I can say is people are responding without knowledge,” she told the Victoria board during a meeting conducted via teleconference.
She said the liaison officers build rapport with students, hear their stories and recognize when a child may be at risk to others and to themselves.
“We are currently drowning in missing youth, youth who are overdosing, youth who are agreeing to do unspeakable sexual acts in return for some money or drugs or sometimes just a sandwich,” she said.
Both board decisions to review their liaison officer programs came during final meetings of the school year.
A date for completion of either review has not been announced.
This report by the Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2020